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Okla. Man to Plead Guilty to Arson, Fraud
Justice at Last
By Melissa Stewart

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Almost two years since damaging a 100-year-old landmark, displacing several businesses, and devastating a community, Robert Michael Boyce has decided to own up to what he has done.

During a pre-trial hearing on Nov. 22, Boyce agreed to plead guilty on charges of second-degree arson, manufacturing methamphetamine, filing a false insurance claim and unlawfully concealing hazardous waste. Sentencing is set for Wednesday, Nov. 30. He is expected to enter a guilty plea at that time.

In August and December 2009, Boyce, 51, allegedly set fires that heavily damaged the historic landmark May Brothers Building, located in Bartlesville, Okla. Several businesses had to relocate as a result of the damage.

“This closes a long chapter for everybody involve-for the May family, for all of those who lost their businesses and for the citizens of Bartlesville,” Bartlesville Assistant Fire Chief Bill Hollander says. “I really am thrilled that Mr. Boyce stepped up to take responsibility for his actions.”

According to authorities Boyce, the former owner of Robert’s Restaurant once located in the May Brothers Building, was operating a methamphetamine lab in the building. Boyce has been in custody since September 2010 in Washington County jail on a $500,000 bond after being apprehended as a fugitive in Safety Harbor, Fla.

Last week the Washington County District Attorney’s Office filed a notice announcing its intention to introduce evidence of other crimes into the trial that was set to begin after Thanksgiving. The motion filed by Assistant District Attorney Jared Sigler detailed plans to talk about alleged extensive drug use by Boyce in the weeks leading up to the fires.

Hollander says the added pressure could have encouraged Boyce's decision to quit fighting and enter a plea. A lead investigator on the case, Hollander, says his team is trying to tally up the amount of time and money spent tracking Boyce and the evidence in the case to provide a restitution figure for prosecutors. A possible term of 25 years in prison has been discussed.

“For me it was never about how much prison time he was going to serve-that is more a question for Mr. May” Hollander says. “For me, it was about seeing him stand up and take responsibility for what he did.”

The May Brothers Building, named for the family business operated by Bartlesville retailer Mike May and his relatives for 100 years in the corner storefront, was built in “Chicago style” architecture with a rounded front.

The fires displaced Mane Tamer hair salon, a family counseling office, a pastor’s office and a financial services business, as well as Robert’s Restaurant. One Tiny Café and Inspirations Dance Studio in the neighboring building were also destroyed by the fire.

Both buildings have been purchased by Bartlesville businessman Clyde Sare who is in the process of renovating them.

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